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Best for Fast High Volume Inflation
Topeak JoeBlow Sport 2Stage
Max PSI: 160 | Weight: 4.8 lbs
If you want to fill mountain bike tires as quickly as possible, reach for the Topeak JoeBlow Sport 2Stage. It takes eight strokes to bring a fat tire from 10 to 30 PSI. That’s 100 to 375% fewer strokes than it takes the competition. Only one other pump comes close to that efficiency with double the compressions. The 2Stage accomplishes this feat by providing two inflation modes, which it calls Stage 1 for high volume and Stage 2 for high pressure. It works like the other two-stage model we tested, but the barrel is much bigger, filling the tires much faster.
This also makes the pump harder to compress, and it’s tall, which can be a challenge for shorter riders. The high-pressure mode is less effective but only takes three more compressions than the fastest inflating pump. What is a bummer is the gauge design. The first half of the gauge covers only 30 PSI, marking every pound of pressure. The second half runs from 30 to 160 PSI, only marking every 5 PSI. And those marks are very close together. It’s not surprising that the gauge is very inaccurate above 30 PSI since it’s hard to tell what the needle is pointing to. The double-sided gauge is also finicky with flat tires. Go for it if you can live with all that to get the efficiency this pump offers.
Read more: Topeak JoeBlow Sport 2Stage review
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Why You Should Trust Us
Our head tester for this review is Clark Tate. Clark is a mountain biker and fair-weather bike commuter who’s been lucky enough to land in four singletrack meccas — Grand Junction and Durango, Colorado, and Santa Cruz and Lake Tahoe, California. She ran GearLab’s mountain bike program for a while, is currently getting used to New England’s rocks and roots, and is considering turning to fat biking this winter. Clark also has a scientific background and, with a systematic and scientifically-trained mind, rigorous gear testing is a no-brainer.
As one might expect, our floor pump tests involved a lot of inflating. We tested for quantifiable factors like inflation speed and gauge accuracy, measured weight and dimensions, and made user-based assessments of more subjective things like handle comfort and overall construction quality. We also asked friends and fellow bicycle enthusiasts to join our testing rounds to balance our experts’ perspectives on the best features for all experience levels.
Analysis and Test Results
Since we are sticklers for a good ride, we pump our tires to perfection almost every time we hit the road (or trail). We look for a simple, secure connection to the valve, a stable platform, and easy pumping. We also want an accurate gauge — which is not as simple as it sounds — when we take off on our ride. We want to know that our tires are inflated correctly.
To find the best pump for every user, we focused on what we think are the five most important attributes of a high-quality bike pump — how easy it is to attach to a tire, whether or not you can easily read the gauge, stability, inflation speed, and accuracy.
One of our primary goals during testing is to decide if a product’s performance is worth its price tag. We also seek out products that will last because we know how satisfying it is to save money while investing in products that will do their job for a long time.
We tested some options that provide excellent performance at a stellar price point. For example, we’re blown away by the Bontrager Charger, which earns the second-highest score with one of the lowest price tags in the test. It works best with high-pressure road tires, though. So we also highlighted the Crankbrothers Sterling, which does a better job of inflating high-volume fat tires than all but one other, higher-priced option.
If you want a high-quality road bike pump with excellent accuracy and the type of good looks and well-considered construction that makes it a joy to use, check out the Lezyne Sport Drive. It will serve you well for a long while, and it’s one of the less expensive options in the review.
Ease of Attachment
Several pumps we tested this round have some version of a universal gauge that automatically adjusts to accommodate either a Presta or a Schrader valve. We love this concept. It lets you all but forget to look at which type of gauge your tire has. That said, not all of them worked equally well.
The Specialized Air Tool Pro, Bontrager TLR Flash Charger, and AerGun X-1000 were the best examples of automatically adjusting gauges. All three worked seamlessly without making us finesse the connection, even when our tires were especially low, though the Flash Charger could be hard to remove.
The Topeak JoeBlow Booster also offers this style of the auto-adjust nozzle. It’s more finicky than the top three examples, but it only really gave us trouble when our tires were flat. The version on the Bontrager Charger doesn’t work nearly as well and is the pump’s one big weak point.
The Lezyne Sport Drive gives us another stellar nozzle option. This one screws on, offering impeccable security once you’ve got it in place. It shines when your tires are dead. Traditional press-on nozzles can shove the valve back into the rim as you try to attach them. This style barely needs real estate to make a solid connection and never shoves the valve down. It does take more time, and you have to unscrew the bright red chuck and flip it over to switch between Schrader and Presta valves, but we like the secure connection.
The rest of the pumps offered double-headed nozzles: one side working with Schrader valves, the other with Presta and sometimes Dunlop. Of these, the Topeak JoeBlow Sport 2Stage works the best, with the Sport III and Max HP getting a bit trickier by degrees.
The Vibrelli chuck didn’t work very well at all, and the SKS Rennkompressor has a longer nozzle face with a Schrader and a Presta opening stacked on top of one another. It’s hard to line up and often challenging to seat correctly.
Though some of these pumps have shorter hoses, most notably the Vibrelli, AerGun, Specialized, and Crankbrothers, we never ran into a situation where they needed to be longer.
To test inflation speed, we counted the number of compressions it took each pump to inflate a mountain bike tire from 10 to 30 PSI and to take a road tire from 40 to 80 PSI. We also considered subjective factors, like how stable they were and how hard they were to pump.
There was less variation when we tested inflation on high-pressure road bike tires, and there was a much larger spread when inflating high-volume mountain bike tires. Of all the pumps, we were most impressed by the inflation speed of the Topeak JoeBlow Sport 2Stage. It took just eight strokes on average to get a fat tire up to 30 PSI. The next best high-volume performer, the Crankbrothers Sterling, needed twice that amount, though the 2Stage is harder to pump. It has so much volume and height that it is physically more difficult to compress. You work for that speed.
The 2Stage also fared reasonably well in the high-pressure test, where the Sterling flagged. These pumps offer two modes, one optimized to provide more volume and the other to provide more pressure. Flip a foot pedal on the Sterling or turn a knob on the 2Stage to flip back and forth.
The rest of the pumps were competing for top high-pressure inflation honors. Those go to the Bontrager Charger, Bontrager TLR Flash Charger, and Specialized Air Tool. They are all among the best non-adjustable options for inflating high-volume tires. They offer similar, comfortable stances and handles that are smooth and easy to use. Any of these pumps would be an excellent all-around option.
The Topeak JoeBlow Sport II and AerGun X-1000 are good pumps that offer decent inflation rates for road or mountain bike tires. The Lezyne Sport Drive and Topeak JoeBlow Max HP] are high-pressure specialists, so a more dedicated road cyclist would appreciate them most. They will certainly still serve if you’re a trail rider, though.
When used as a regular pump, the Topeak JoeBlow Booster also performs best with high-pressure road tires. The JoeBlow Booster and the Bontrager TLR Flash Charger also serve as manual air compressors to install tubeless tires, using a big burst of air to set the tire’s bead against the rim of the wheel. Both work wonderfully. During our tests, we’ve used them to install 29-inch, 27.5-inch, plus, and fat tubeless tires. Both pumps usually seat the tire’s bead on the first go. If they don’t, try gently pressing the tire toward the rim to force the bead toward the edges. And make sure your tire is off the ground.
Of the two, the Booster is more straightforward to use. You have to rotate the rim of its dial between clearly marked charge and inflate marks. Its gauge was also more accurate in our tests. Though you have to switch two levers on the Flash Charger in the right order, the blast of air seemed more powerful, and the pump inflates tires faster than a regular pump, which is how you’ll likely be using it most of the time.
Inflating a bike tire can feel like a high-intensity interval workout. Our field tests sometimes looked like a CrossFit class with our testers side-by-side, furiously inflating away. A good bike pump needs a base at least as strong as you are to hold up to the force of your pumping. Pump bases can take a beating. You need a sturdy one.
Pumps with well-balanced tripod bases are among our favorites, like the Bontrager’s Charger and TLR Flash Charger, Crankbrothers Sterling, and Lezyne Sport Drive. These all stand upright when you step away and will deal with a few knocks. We also like that two of the base’s legs tilt toward you, letting you stand further from the pump while securing it. The Specialized Air Tool has a similar base, but the front legs trend more to the side than the front, making it easy to knock over in that direction.
The benefits of tripod-style bases are especially apparent when pumping outdoors on less-than-level surfaces. Unstable pumps topple easily when you’re pumping on a grassy hillside covered in sticks and leaves.
Pumps with bases that extend out to either side are less dependable. If the wings are large and broad enough, the pump can still be reliable on flat ground. Often though, they tip forward or backward with little provocation. The behemoth JoeBlow Booster is an example of a fairly stable, non-tripod pump. We’ve knocked it over a few times, though.
It’s tall and heavy, with a large steel base that provides a solid foundation, measuring 10 inches across and about 4.5 inches front to back. There’s no rubber or plastic protection under the metal base plate, so be careful when using this hefty pump on delicate surfaces.
The Topeak JoeBlow Sport III and Sport 2Stage feature smaller versions of this baseplate. They’re oriented left to right with enough depth to create front-to-back stability. You should be more careful around them. The Max HP and Vibrelli Performance are less stable still and fall over with little provocation.
The SKS Rennkompressor prioritizes size over stability. It has foldable feet and an easily removable handle for travel. Those features make it challenging to use since it often falls over whenever you step away from it, even to attach its nozzle to a tire. If you want your pump to last, go for a wide and hefty base plate with a gauge mounted low enough to hold extra weight low to the ground.
To test the accuracy of these pumps, we cross-referenced their pressure readings with an independent gauge (a Jaco dial version, proven to be highly accurate in our gauge test). We checked readings throughout the testing period and ran a dedicated accuracy test, pumping mountain bike tires to 30 PSI and road bike tires to 40 and 80 PSI. All the pumps get you in the ballpark, but some will require more tweaking than others if you’re particular about your pressures.
The most accurate pump in this review is the Lezyne Sport Drive. It nailed the higher pressures in the test but overestimated the 30 PSI test by 2 pounds. Since it’s meant for road tires, that’s not a huge deal-breaker. The Specialized Air Tool Pro landed in second place, nailing the lower pressures but undershooting the 80 PSI mark by 2 pounds as well.
The AerGun X-100, Crankbrothers Sterling, and Bontrager Charger are all similarly accurate. The AerGun struggles more with the lower pressures (under 3 PSI) and the Bontrager with the higher ones (under by around 4). The Sterling struggled with the middle-of-the-road 40 PSI mark, oddly. The Joeblow Booster is a bit worse, over by a few pounds at both lower two pressure points, but nailing the 80 PSI marker.
The Topeak JoeBlow Sport III and Max HP were about 5 pounds under at higher pressures. The Bontrager TRL Flash Charger was over by that amount at high pressures but nailed pressures around 30 psi on a mountain bike tire.
The Max HP wasn’t great at low pressures, either. From there, it just went downhill. The SKS and Vibrelli were unimpressive. The Topeak JoeBlow Sport 2Stage disappointed us, holding it back in the scores. Its higher pressure readings (over 30 PSI) were way off, probably because the second half of the gauge is hard to read(more on that below).
Pumping up a bike tire can be a workout. With sweat stinging your eyes, bending over and squinting to check the gauge is no fun. Height, color combination, print size, construction, and intervals are all important factors that can differentiate between a good gauge and a bad one.
We like the Bontrager TRL Flash Charger and Topeak JoeBlow Booster gauges. Both are large, clear, and located at the top of the pump, making them very easy to read. The Flash Charger’s gauge is digital, making it very precise and easy to read in the dark, but completely useless if you run out of batteries.
The JoeBlow Booster’s analog gauge is marked at intervals of 5 PSI, which is less precise than we’d like but pretty typical. It also has a sliding yellow marker to keep track of your desired pressure, as do the other Topeak options and the Aergun. It’s a handy detail.
The Specialized Air Tool Pro gauge is big and marked at every 2 PSI with thin tick marks and at every 20 in large numbers. The Vibrelli and the Bontrager Charger also mark every 2 PSI. Of these, the Charger is another easy one to read. It’s simple and bright white with large-ish black letters. The Vibrelli is smaller, packs its tick marks closer together, and tucks its numbers under the curve of the rim. Because of this, it doesn’t score well.
The other Topeak pumps read out at 5 PSI increments, as do the Lezyne and Crankbrother gauges. The JoeBlow Sport III is the best of this bunch, with a large gauge and PSI numbers printed clearly around the outside of the rim, free of the glare of the glass. The Max HP is a little smaller, the Lezyne Sport darker with smaller numbers, and the Crankbrothers has smaller numbers and an eye-tiring blue and white color scheme.
Look for large gauges that are bright and marked, with enough resolution to get the precision and accuracy you need.
While conceptually simple, bike pumps vary greatly in their capacities and capabilities. How easy and pleasant they are to use, and their efficiency and accuracy vary greatly. We hope our side-by-side testing methods and comparison help you sort through the details. This review will help you find the best bike floor pump for your pedaling needs without bankrupting your new bike fund.